It may not be the highest-profile comic Philip Tan has ever drawn, but the artist will be working with a pretty high-profile writer.
In January, Tan becomes the regular artist on The Outsiders, joining DCU Executive Editor Dan DiDio (click here for our interview with DiDio on the new writing assignment) as the new creative team for the monthly comic.
Since signing as a DC exclusive artist in 2008, Tan has gotten to work with quite a list of writers: Greg Rucka on Final Crisis: Revelation, Geoff Johns on Green Lantern, and Grant Morrison on Batman and Robin.
But now he gets to work with the top dog of the DC Universe, bringing his dramatic style to the comic's existing team and adding a few new characters along the way.
Newsarama talked to Tan about the job – his enthusiasm for the project coming over loud and clear during the phone conversation – and found out why DiDio's scripting style is what sold him on the opportunity.Click for slightly larger image, Check back for full size. Newsarama: Phil, how did you end up working on a comic with Dan DiDio? Did he come to you and ask you to do this project?
Philip Tan: We were talking about what I'd be doing next, back before I started on the Batman and Robin arc. My Green Lantern job was just finishing up, and I knew I only had a few issues of Batman and Robin.
He told me there were two possibilities: One was a high-profile "Bat"-book; the other was The Outsiders. But DiDio said he would write The Outsiders. And for me, I was like, "Really????" I asked Dan, if I take the Outsiders book, would it be OK to work on the plot script style, and that's what Dan wanted also. So it just kind of fell together.
It was what I wanted and needed at the right time. And we've been preparing ever since, which is nice to get a head start on things like that.
Nrama: What attracted you to working with a writer using plot-style scripts?
Tan: It's unusual to find a writer who is using that style. I don't think there's a better style or anything. But for me, it gives me more room to design the story. I like designing. I've done a lot of design work already of characters and settings. But this gives me the additional challenge to really break down scenes and stories the way I imagine them.
It's something that I've never done, but I'd really like to try. As much fun as I've had working with all these great writers in the last year and half, they write in really tight scripts. So it appealed to me from the get-go to be able to break down the stories. I really want to see what I can bring to a comic.
It's something I'm really, really excited about. It's a working relationship I've never done before. I want to see if I can make it work.
Nrama: What do you like about The Outsiders team?
Tan: It's weird because Batman and the Outsiders was the first book from DC that I collected. But then I got away from it. So it's great to come back to it after all these years. This is the first book that I picked up.
So I try to make a connection with the characters between how I used to know them and what they're like right now. I've picked up the books to see how they were portrayed recently. And I've tried to take things that I saw that I liked, but then add some things to the characters that I'd like to see. It's one of those situations where I know some of these characters so well because I read them for so long, but I also don't know their recent stories, so I'm catching up on all that while also using what I already know and love about them when I'm drawing them.
Nrama: What's it like working with the big boss at DC?
Tan: It's great! I mean, it's hard sometimes because he is so busy. So far, we've already plotted out six to 12 months of story. So we've got a good idea of where we're going. But it becomes difficult because when we get talking, we end up getting so excited about what we want to do that we end up talking for hours and getting so caught up in everything that we are like, maybe we should let Dan get back to his work! So we don't get to do that as much as maybe we could.
Dan and I love the history of the Outsiders and we're just so excited to be contributing to its mythos. We want to add excitement. Going back to my Marvel work, I'll describe it as, we haven't really seen those big Dark Phoenix moments. And we want to bring that to this book. And it's been great working with him because we just have so many ideas for the comic.
But what is really special to me is the plot-style scripts. It's something that people did in the past, but you just don't get that opportunity anymore. This allows me to contribute to the story better, not only with the artwork, but
I'm also trying to work closely with the colorist and the inker. We're trying to improve the look of our stuff. I really want to get to a point where it says "art team" and doesn't even break it down to penciler and inker and colorist. I'm really a believer that with the right art team, it really makes a difference.
It's really been a collaboration between everyone. It starts with the plot-style scripts, but then it's this big team effort where everyone is contributing to the comic.
Nrama: Is there a certain character that you've been focusing on?
Tan: Geo-Force is probably my favorite character in the book. He'll be going through some changes. The relationship he will have with the team and the rest of the DC Universe is going to be pretty special.
What we're trying to do now is with every character, we're trying not to change their look just because we want to. Their look will only change because of the story, or because things in the DC Universe are affecting them. The whole book, in general, is being affected over the coming months in a way that will change the look of it.
Geo-Force is really challenging, not because it's physically demanding or anything. But just to capture him and the state of mind he's going to have is really tough. We'll see some changes coming for Black Lightning. Katana will have some changes coming up. I am just excited to show people Katana's new look. I think for three or four issues, she'll look the same. But because of certain things changing, she will start to look different. But we're going to focus on not just her look, but how her character is affecting the whole team.
There's a really, really exciting new character who is going to show up somewhere around the fifth or sixth issue mark. But we're going to not focus on that. We have to build the team first and our run, and make people experience a good transition from the great job that Peter Tomasi and Fernando [Pasarin]. So we're not going to do anything drastic. You're just going to see how things going on in the DCU make some changes.
We'll be going into an important phase of the book a little further into 2010, and it will really take everything to a new level.
Nrama: Is there anything else you want to tell your fans as you start on Outsiders?
Tan: I have just been so lucky to work with all these great writers, like Geoff and Grant, and Greg, who is always so supportive of what I do. But I'm still growing. I'm not perfect. I am so thankful for all the fans who love what I'm doing. But I want to get better. I would love for those who never liked my work to maybe try it out. I really, really want people to give this book a chance. People who are not planning to pick it up should give it a chance. I think every book I do, I'm going to do a better job. Especially with such a close working relationship with my inker and my writer, and with my colorist also. We're really going to give you something different.
And like I said, it's going to be fun. It's going to be very unique. You're going to get a great team of characters with a whole new fresh take. So try it out!RELATED STORY Dan DiDio Talks Writing The OUTSIDERS